Australia says China could use Ukraine ‘distraction’ to invade Taiwan
Australian Defence Minister Peter Dutton warned China could use Russia’s conflict with Ukraine as a “distraction” to launch its “own acts of aggression” as thousands of US troops deploy to Australia.
In a speech to Australia’s United States Studies Centre on Wednesday, Dutton said Australia and the US were “in lock-step in our commitment to regional stability,” before claiming that China could use the conflict in Ukraine as “a useful distraction and an opportunity to pursue their own acts of aggression and coercion.”
“This threat emanates chiefly from Beijing, which has its own openly stated territorial ambitions, and which recently entered a ‘no-limits’ cooperative partnership with the Kremlin,” Dutton alleged.
During the speech, Dutton also claimed Moscow had “long sought to weaponise the internet as a means of conducting a form of asymmetric warfare in the post-Soviet era,” and warned that if Russia succeeds in its conflict with Ukraine, then “all free nations will face a darker tomorrow.”
Dutton’s comments were made amid reports that thousands of US troops would deploy to Australia this year, including – for the first time – 250 US Army troops.
The defence minister has repeatedly provoked Beijing and has accused China of “amassing nuclear weapons” and “militarizing.” This month, Dutton refused to rule out Australia arming Taiwan against China and said the Australian government was working to receive nuclear-powered submarines “much sooner” than the initially planned year of 2040.
In November, Dutton sparked controversy after he said it would be “inconceivable” for Australia to not join the US if it took action against China over Taiwan. Global Times editor Hu Xijin responded by warning that Australia “better be prepared to sacrifice for Taiwan island and the US” if it ever makes such a move.
Last week, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison warned that a new “arc of autocracy” was attempting to “reset the world order.”